Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Exhaustion of Mushgod

Years ago I heard a pastor in Pittsburgh preach about Mushgod. Mushgod is the civic god of our nation, the uniting god of our culture. She/he is the god referenced at the end of every politician's speech though, as they dutifully quote on cue their statement of faith at the very end, they always use the cute nickname they have for him/her: "god bless America." Likewise, every service organization from the Rotary Club to Little League Baseball prays to her/him and justifies their existence by him/her. Mushgod thinks nothing of her/his own glory, but rather is here just for you. Like a can of child's Play-Doh, Mushgod takes the shape of his/her worshiper's wishes. A while ago, one described the knowledge of her/him in a way we can all understand (or at least I can, seeing that I had this for breakfast this morning): "Cream of Wheat" divinity. For Mushgod is beyond definition, preferring an amorphous, rounded existence to the edges and corners that most theologians employ. If on occasion he/she gets mistaken for Santa Claus or Mother Nature, that does not bother her/him. And according to many of his/her followers, like the significant gods of other cultures now long dead, such as the Greeks and Romans, Mushgod also has a son. His name is Myjesus.

Myjesus is the god of personalized salvation of the Mushgodites. Legend has it he did great wonders but then died on a cross, which in itself sounds like a wretched end. But Myjesus followers have made this a beautiful symbol of their faith. They do so by using it as an example of how we should live, wearing gold crosses, singing love ballads about it, and pointing out that the legend also says Myjesus rose from the dead so we too can rise above all our difficulties. Rather than demanding any change of lifestyle from his followers such as found in legalistic religions like Christianity, Myjesus accomodates whatever lifestyle the believer chooses or was helplessly born to follow. His followers are allowed to use any of Myjesus' favorite quotes, such as "God so loves the world," "Love one another," and "Do not judge" as support for any of their actions. The only word they are not allowed to use is "sin," unless used for civic purposes that would, in their opinion, serve the public good such as in the "sin of intolerance." Myjesus followers usually worship in big places like crystal cathedrals and even New York Stadium.

Though this religion of Mushgod and Myjesus continues to grow in numbers, there are signs that they may be running out of resources, perhaps even getting a bit tired. Afterall, no one ever claimed they were infinite. Why do I say this?

For a long time the Mushgod devotees promised that because Mushgod would always bless America, our nation would always be able to provide a growing economy, plenty of jobs, affordable education, ready healthcare, inexpensive housing, free childcare...I do not have times to list all the blessings. These blessings, so they told us, would come as long as Mushgod was satisfied with three things: 1) "Mush-tithes" collected by the government and given willingly by the people, which are usually in the neighborhood of 40% or more of your income (it's just a little hard to figure out how much to give sometimes); 2) "Mush-shifts" which is the peaceful distribution of this money by the priests in Washington to whomever Mushgod deems worthy of his/her beneficence, be it single mothers or banks needing a little extra; and 3) "Mush-money" which is the one miracle Mushgod does as she/he creates money ex nihilo by causing printing presses magically to turn on and start printing more bills when they are needed.

Though these conditions are all still in place, Mushgod seems a bit exhausted in keeping up with all of the blessings that were promised. Or I wonder if it just that he/she is displeased because 1) people are starting to protest giving their Mush-tithes, 2) they seem to be having more difficulty in doing the Mush-shifts, and 3) some of the other unenlightened countries who have yet to come to believe in Mushgod do not like using our Mush-money as mush much anymore? Usually when Mushgod is unhappy (note: she/he never gets angry), there are signs indicating it. Start listening for words such as "sacrifice," "redistribution," or "universal." They'll be in those speeeches that end with the mushy "god bless America."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of Pigs and Pearls

A growing number of debates featuring atheist Christopher "Note-the-Irony-that-My-Name-Means-Christ-Bearer" Hitchens have been popping up all over the internet. Hitchens, a journalist, TV pundit, and author of the book God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has been debating men such as Douglas Wilson, Dinesh D'Souza, Frank Turek, Al Sharpton (Oh help us!) and even his own brother. Hitchens is professorial, extremely intelligent, humorous, and, I am beginning to believe, more cunning than believers. How so?

When his God is not Great book was published, according to his own words Hitchens told the publishers that he did not want his book tour to take him to the typical liberal bastions on the East Coast or college campuses. Instead, he wanted to go to the Bible Belt, to churches, Bible colleges and seminaries. Consequently, that is where many of these debates have been held. At least to this pastor's way of thinking, I believe this welcoming of Hitchens is at best an act of incredible naivete and at worse one of gross unfaithfulness to Christ.

For did not our Lord instruct us not to cast our pearls before pigs, unless they trample both the pearls and those who cast them underfoot (see Matthew 7:6)? A pearl in Biblical parlance is the teaching of truth, and in the context in which Jesus spoke these words He is referring to the corrective teaching of the gospel. In the words of The New Geneva Study Bible's comment on this passage, "believers should not continue to preach to people who have rejected the gospel with contempt and scorn," which is exactly what Hitchens is doing. By inviting Hitchens to a church or seminary, knowing that he is going to blaspheme our Lord and Savior - laughing and getting others to laugh as he does so
(albeit a bit nervously as you see on some of these videos) - seems to be a gross violation of this injunction of Christ. It is one thing for a believer to write against him or go head-to-head with him on some talk show. I applaud those believers that have done so for their courage. Yet it is an entirely different matter to be chummy with him in a church sanctuary or seminary before young believers and seminarians.

Jesus told us that the sons of this age are more cunning than the children of light. That Hitchens wanted to debate with Christians (people that he believes are poisoning the world) in their devoted places, and Christians are receiving him warmly, only proves it. For make no mistake about it, he is preaching his atheistic gospel to win converts.
Hitchens is casting those stumbling blocks that the mature in Christ are supposed to be clearing out of other's path, rather than giving him an invitation to do so. Has the church really begun to yearn for relevance so much that we will accommodate him, and spend money given by saints for gospel ministry to pay his honorarium for his blasphemies? Rather than desiring the great show that Hitchens promises to put on and yearning for the praise of the world about the church's "open-mindedness" in inviting him, the bride of Christ better look to the Lord of the church.

For another verse about pigs and jewelry is found in the Bible. Proverbs 11:22 says, "As a ring of gold in a swine's snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion." The bride of Christ, made beautiful by His blood, is showing this lack of discretion in this matter. So rather than holding up Hitchens for the pig that he is showing himself to be in defaming our Lord Jesus, the church is wallowing in the sty with him. That's no place for Christ's bride to be (II Peter 2:22).